Playing football is a good way to get physically fit. But our new study shows that a regular kick about can also lead to improved mental health, social confidence and a sense of purpose.
As we explored the impact of the beautiful game on people with mental health challenges, many of the players we spoke to said their weekly games improved stress and anxiety levels. One commented:
I think when you have the adrenalin pumping it kind of flushes out any kind of negative emotions and stuff you have, almost like you kind of sweat it out.
Another said they went home after a game feeling “much more relaxed”, adding: “It would be great to do it every day.”
Other benefits included social connections, which some of the players we spoke to had previously struggled with. It appeared that football was instrumental in providing a common interest for players and coaches, and a subsequent bond. One player said: “You talk about what has happened on the field. That is what the ice breaker is. I think that is where people gain their confidence then to talk to new people.”
Another powerful element was the way in which becoming part of a team, sharing a pitch and a spirit helped to normalise their feelings and allowed them to build connections to each other as individuals and as members of a team.
The players we spoke to were mainly young men, for whom mental health problems are a particular issue. Suicide, for example, has been the leading cause of death for men aged under 34 in the UK since 2001.
For our study, participants attended weekly 90-120 minute football sessions, held by four professional and semi-professional clubs working with a mental health anti-stigma programme.
Key to its success was the enthusiasm and commitment of the coaches, who were able to create a positive, inclusive environment for the players. For example, the programme was initially designed to be “non-competitive” but this changed after the coaches recognised it might not attract players, with one noting that “people with mental health issues are no different… I wouldn’t get out of bed to play non-competitive football”.
The participants recognised and appreciated the coaches’ dedication, which acted as a motivating factor for many of them to commit to the programme, with one commenting that “they are here putting all their spare time for all us to enjoy. They do a massive job, and we have a lot of respect for them.”
Treatment on the pitch
The mental health benefits described by the players in our study support previous research in this area. One recent review demonstrated that physical activity improved depressive symptoms, with results comparable to the use of pharmaceuticals. It also showed improvements in cardio fitness and quality of life for those with major depressive disorder and schizophrenia. Exercise-based interventions have widely been found to be as effective as psychotherapy for some people suffering from mental health difficulties.
Future initiatives should strive to develop a more structured communication between mental health service providers and potential participants. Crucially, they should also reach out to established clubs which have the facilities and personnel to help.
Our results add strength to arguments that sports-based programmes should be widely established as low cost, easily accessible and effective mechanisms for improving mental health in our communities.
After all, the prevalence of mental health difficulties has become a major concern for public health, with approximately one-quarter of the adult population currently experiencing mental health difficulties in some form. At the moment, such difficulties, which include anxiety and depression, are most commonly treated using pharmacological or psychological interventions. Yet serious consideration should be given by policy makers to exercise-based programmes, which continue to prove themselves as effective alternatives.
Mark Llewellyn, Professor of Health and Care Policy, University of South Wales; Alecia Cousins, PhD Candidate in Psychology, Swansea University, and Philip Tyson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of South Wales
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Thursday announced a 28 per cent hike in Cocoa Producer Prices for the 2020/2021 crop year.
Thus, effective October 1, 2020, the producer price for cocoa moves from the previous crop year’s GH¢8,240 ($1.41) to GH¢10,560 9 ($1,817.92) per metric ton. A bag of cocoa for the coming season would sell for GH¢660 from 2019/2020 producer price of GH¢514.
The President made announcement when he launched the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western-North Region during his three-day working visit.
He told the gathering that “by this new producer price, we have kept faith with our commitment, under the international arrangement with Côte d’Ivoire and global stakeholders, by awarding to our farmers the full $400 per metric tonne Living Income Differential.”
Ghana and Ivory Coast, who together produce over 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa, in the quest to overhaul global cocoa pricing, introduced a $400 a tonne Living Income Differential (LID) in July last year on cocoa sales for the 2020/21 season.
“By this substantial increase in the producer price, we are also delivering on our 2016 manifesto promise to reward handsomely the hard work of our cocoa farmers and their unequalled contribution to the economy of Ghana over the years,” President Akufo-Addo emphasized.
The President noted that the unstable nature of cocoa prices on the world cocoa market remained one of the biggest challenges to ensuring payment of decent farm-gate prices to cocoa farmers.
He was not happy that Ghanaian and Ivoirian cocoa farmers earned a meagre $6 billion from a global chocolate industry of over $100 billion.
“Government believes that value-addition to our cocoa, and the search for new markets, will make us more money than all the aid given to us by all the donor countries.
“We shall gain some dignity, and spare the donors the fatigue we have all heard about,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo was gratified that the Strategic Partnership between Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, which is manifesting itself in a joint cocoa production and marketing policy, was already paying dividends.
“Today, I am happy to announce that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are receiving a Living Income Differential of $400 per ton of cocoa, which is an additional earning from the world market price for our farmers.
“The Living Income Differential is going to guarantee some stability to the producer price of cocoa and sustainability of the industry in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,” the President said.